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Mary Hudson Vandegrift Mardi Gras albums

Call Number: RH PH 557


This collection consists of two disassembled scrapbook albums containing photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and ephemera from the 1965 Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans when Mary Hudson Vandegrift, a businesswoman from the Kansas City area, was crowned Queen of the Venus Krewe, the first all-female parade krewe of New Orleans' Mardi Gras.


  • 1965


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Mary Hudson Vandegrift (1912-1999)

Mary Evelyn Hudson lost her first husband, Cecil Wayne Driver, when she was 21 years old, in 1933, when he was killed in a truck accident. She borrowed $200 from her father to open a gas station in Kansas City, Missouri, which she named the Hudson Oil Company. By manning the cash register herself and offering self-pumping service, she was able to undercut full-service competitors' prices.

Hudson built up a large chain of self-service gas stations, bought an oil refinery in Oklahoma, and by 1982 was named one of the wealthiest Americans by Forbes magazine. She operated over 300 gas stations and convenience stores in 35 states. She built up other assets, including cattle ranches, farms, and a Russian petroleum consulting firm. She was the only female member of the Twenty-Five Year Club, an organization for oil company executives.

In 1984, Hudson was found guilty of altering her gas station pumps to provide less gasoline than what the gauges showed customers. While fines and charges were minimal, the Hudson Oil Company was forced into bankruptcy after several consumer fraud lawsuits and after a court decision in which Hudson was found guilty of not paying her employees minimum wage and overtime. Hudson continued to manage several other assets she owned after losing the oil company well into her 80s.

[Information retrieved from bookseller information and New York Times obituary.]


1 linear foot (2 document cases)

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of two scrapbook and photograph albums compiled presumably by Mary Hudson or one of her staff, regarding the 1965 Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, when Hudson was crowned Queen of the Venus Krewe. The Venus Krewe was the first all-female Mardi Gras krewe to form in New Orleans, as well as the longest-lasting, established in 1941 and disbanded in 1992.

One album is almost entirely photographs from those celebrations, including both black and white and color images, posed and candid shots, displaying Hudson in her costume along with other members of the Krewe. These included the King, the Page, and the rest of the court, all in costumes for the parades and ball. The theme for the year was "Giants of Literature," and individuals were dressed as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Evangeline, William Shakespeare's Cleopatra, Homer's Chryseis from The Illiad, Badoura from The Arabian Nights, and Alfred Lord Tennyson's The Princess, among other characters.

The second album includes congratulatory correspondence, newspaper clippings, and ephemera surrounding the 1965 Mardi Gras celebrations, Hudson's 20th wedding anniversary to her husband Frank Vandegrift (1898-1977), and a June party Hudson held in Shawnee Mission, Kansas with movies displaying the Mardi Gras celebrations. The correspondence includes several letters and notes from individuals and companies related to the oil industry.

Both albums, in slightly different colors, were embossed with "Krewe of Venus New Orleans Mardi Gras 1965 New Orleans, Louisiana Mary Hudson Vandegrift." The "Krewe of Venus" logo includes the shape of a woman, presumably the goddess Venus.

Physical Location

RH PH 557

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, Between the Covers Rare Books, 2019.

Processing Information

The scrapbook albums have been disassembled with individual items removed from the pages when the adhesive had already worn off, otherwise remaining on the pages. All pages have been left in their original order and the albums themselves retained with the collection.



Guide to the Mary Hudson Vandegrift Collection
Mary Hudson Vandegrift Mardi Gras albums
Finding aid prepared by mwh, 2020. Finding aid encoded by mwh, 2020.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Mary Hudson Vandegrift Mardi Gras albums, RH PH 557, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States